This issue of Khamsin continues the crucial debate on religion in the Middle East and its reactionary impact on politics in the region today.

This theme is taken up in two articles:

The first is the concluding half of Israel Shahak’s major critical study of the Jewish religion, the first part of which was published in Khamsin 8. Shahak’s theme is that Judaism must be understood historically as an evolving entity, adapting itself to changed circumstances. Shahak shows how deeply a number of important Jewish religious themes have penetrated into zionist ideology, despite its nationalist and outwardly secular appearance. As the State of Israel and its institutions continue their theocratic drift, we consider that this contribution by Shahak is particularly opportune. It is essential background for understanding some of zionism’s more bizarre and regressive features, which are on the rise today.

The second article, by Azar Tabari, traces the political evolution of Iran’s Shi ‘ite clergy from the late 19th century through to their seizure of state power in February 1979. The author is interested in the reasons why the clergy were able to sustain themselves in politics for so long, the various stages of their involvement, and their militant revival in the second half of the 1970s. Of special interest to all those on the left in particular who underestimated Khomeini and the reactionary character of what he stood for, is Tabari’s discussion of Khomeini’s theory of government. Her conclusion that the left generally made agrievous error in allying with the clergy and Islamic opposition against the shah and later in supporting Khomeini’s regime, however critically, is of great importance for militants in other Middle Eastern countries.

In this issue of Khamsin we are publishing a major contribution by Patrick Clawson on the structure of Egyptian capitalism and the changes it has undergone during its entire history. He argues that these changes can only be understood as the result of developments in the international structure of capitalism and the evolving demands of the advanced capitalist economies. In the light of Sadat’s open door policy to the West – so-called infitah – and his break with Nasser’s state capitalism, this is a subject of great importance and one which must be taken up in future issues of Khamsin. The article poses important general questions on the prospects for capitalist development in backward countries. It also provides an essential backdrop for understanding some of the particular problems that Egypt is facing today, and which other Arab countries may very well face tomorrow.